Oxfam Pacific: Climate change driving vulnerable communities into poverty

People of Kiritimati coral atoll building a stone seawall to struggle against sea level rise cause by global warming. Photo: AFP

Oxfam in the Pacific says climate change is slowly driving vulnerable communities into poverty and hunger, highlighting that the effects are now a humanitarian call for help.

Through a survey, Oxfam reveals that the region’s unusual sea intrusions and recent natural disasters have begun to largely affect food gardens, leaving communities with just enough to fill their tummies.

The NGO’s humanitarian lead in Solomon Islands Cameron Ngatulu said that many of these island communities use their excess harvested native crops as a means of income to support their daily needs, but the effects of climate change have trickled into their pockets and that of these smaller island states’ economies.

“When in there is a lack of livelihood and income at the community level, especially when a vast majority of communities live in rural areas, it will have a bigger impact on the wider community. Especially small businesses that depend on our small communities to support them as well.”

Ngatulu said the realities of climate change are being experienced within low-lying communities now, and the need to respond should be swift.

He calls on the international community to become proactive in finding solutions after the events are a little too late for the people on the ground.

“There have been more natural disasters occurring in the Pacific over the last ten years, especially an increase in the intensity of stronger cyclones. But, for many of our major partners, it’s always reacting afterward. So, what we have been discussing across a lot of the countries are adaptation and mitigation. We need to invest more in preparedness, more in processes that would help mitigation before the cyclones occur and assist communities and all the major players in this space respond better to natural disasters.”

UNDP supported programme in Vanuatu to share farming techniques to improve resilience to climate change. Aug 2015.

Community members from Tanoliu showcase their demonstration plot to their Fiji, Solomon Islands and Tonga counterparts. Photo: Supplied/ UNDP

With the upcoming COP27 meeting, Ngatulu emphasises the importance of collective responsibility as the way forward.

He added that industrialised nations must be more responsible in tackling climate change as many other countries will begin to follow suit.

“To give those talks the best chances of success, it is vital that countries who have higher emissions need to show leadership. For example, the G7 alone is responsible for nearly 40 percent of carbon emissions while the G20 for more than three-quarters of that so they have a big responsibility, especially for the Pacific region and the capacity to tackle climate change.”

Nagtulu pleads for urgent action on the issue – noting that a slow rise of sea levels could mean a slow death to the Pacific countries’ main source of food and income, leaving them literally underwater.